New PAC using old Voters Coalition name makes endorsements, draws fire

The old Voters Coalition disbanded in 2013, but a new PAC using its name recently mailed out endorsements.

The old Voters Coalition disbanded in 2013, but a new PAC using its name recently mailed out endorsements.

A new entity using the name “Voters Coalition” — the same name as a respected nonpartisan organization that disbanded in 2013 — has emerged just in time to send out endorsement mailers on the eve of Tuesday’s primary elections.

 

It’s drawing condemnation from some candidates who weren’t endorsed and say using the Voters Coalition name is deceptive.

 

The Palm Beach County Voters Coalition PAC filed its first report with the Palm Beach County Elections Office on Aug. 19. On Friday, it reported that Mary Brandenburg, a former Democratic state House member and former West Palm Beach city commissioner, had given the group a $25,000 contribution.

 

Brandenburg is listed on the group’s website as its treasurer. The chairman is attorney Leonard Feuer.

 

Mary Brandenburg

Mary Brandenburg

“I think the website makes it clear that this is a new organization…Len and I intended to be very transparent,” Brandenburg said this morning.

 

The website says the organization is “carrying on in the tradition of the former Voters Coalition” and that it was formed “to carry on the name of the highly respected Voters Coalition that was disbanded in 2013. The Old is New Again.”

 

Mailers that were sent to voters in the past few days don’t mention that the old Voters Coalition disbanded, though the mailers do list the website of the new entity, so curious voters could go there to see the explanation.

 

“Sadly, unsuspecting candidates and the public think these endorsements are legitimate,” said former state Rep. Kelly Skidmore, whose Democratic primary rival in the state House District 91 race, Emily Slosberg, is endorsed on the new mailers. “We are all being duped by a sham group that has now tarnished the reputation of a revered organization.”

 

State Rep. Bobby Powell, D-Riviera Beach, called the Voters Coalition PAC “phony” after his Democratic state Senate primary rival, trial lawyer Michael Steinger, was listed as an endorsee of the PAC. County Commissioner Shelley Vana, who’s running for property appraiser, blasted “fake palm cards or committees” after her opponent, Dorothy Jacks, was endorsed by the new PAC.

 

Brandenburg said she and Feuer decided on the endorsements. But the PAC plans to form a countywide board and organize “community education forums” in the fall.

 

Steinger, Jacks and many of the other candidates endorsed by the new Voters Coalition of Palm Beach County PAC are clients of Cornerstone Solutions, the West Palm Beach consulting shop headed by Rick Asnani.

 

Brandenburg, who hired Cornerstone when she was a candidate, said Asnani is a friend and that her business, Connection Strategies LLC, and Cornerstone occasionally refer business to each other.

 

But Brandenburg said there’s no connection between the PAC and Asnani or Cornerstone.

 

“Rick is not involved with this,” Brandenburg said.

 

Brandenburg dismissed complaints about the new PAC’s endorsements as sour grapes.

 

“Those are people we did not endorse,” she said of Powell, Vana and Skidmore. “If they’re unhappy about that, I’m sorry, but we didn’t endorse them.”

 

 

 

 

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